Victoria Whale Watching Report: Fantastic Sightings Heading Into Our Crew’s Favourite Whale Watching Month!
September 7, 2021
Written by: Lori, Naturalist – The week of August 30th, 2021.
As we usher in September it is nice to take a moment to reflect on some of the incredible wildlife encounters we have had this week. The abundance of life that we can find in the Salish Sea is truly astonishing, and we are extremely fortunate to be able to work and play in one of the most biologically diverse seas in the world.
The cold waters of the Salish Sea have a higher nutrient and oxygen content than warmer waters do, and thus can support more krill and schooling fish. This is wonderful news for us, as it means that we have had plenty of humpback whales feeding in the nutrient-rich waters surrounding Victoria this summer.
It has been a wonderful week for humpback sightings and we were fortunate to spend some time with the humpback whale known as Scratchy! Scratchy was named after the “rake marks” left on its fluke by transient killer whales, likely during its first year of life. Transient killer whales prey on humpback calves, which is one reason that humpbacks migrate to warmer waters during the winter months. We stayed with Scratchy for quite some time, enjoying the sound of its blows and the arch of its back as we observed numerous deep dives. It is always bittersweet to see a tail fluke, as while we admire its beauty we know it’ll be a few minutes until we see the humpback whale come up for another breath. Patience is a virtue when it comes to whale watching!
When we head out West in search of humpbacks, we often pass by or visit Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve. When we get close we are often greeted by a familiar barking sound. This is an easy way to tell a California sea lion from a Steller sea lion – the California sea lions bark whereas the Steller sea lions have a very distinct roar or growl.
When we get closer we can see the size difference immediately! Steller sea lion males can grow to be 2,500Ibs, while California sea lion males often weigh in around 700Ibs. Race Rocks Lighthouse is an extremely special place for us, as it is one of the few places in the world where we can see harbour seals, Northern elephant seals, Steller sea lions, and California sea lions all in one place!
The Transient killer whales in our area are well aware that Race Rocks is a great place to find a meal. We observed both the T060’s and T018’s hunting near Race Rocks, and it was impressive to witness several spyhops as they surveyed their surroundings.
The diversity we can find in just one little part of the world is humbling. As we view Transient killer whales, humpback whales, various pinnipeds, and schooling fish all in one small area, it is a great reminder of just how intertwined the lives of our favourite marine species are.